3 men convicted of murder granted new trial

A judge has granted a new trial for three men convicted of murder. The three were convicted in the death of an Elyria man in East Cleveland back in February 1995.

Eugene Johnson requested a new trial last month. Derrick Wheatt and Laurese Glover made similar requests at the end of January. The trio became known as the "East Cleveland Three."

The new trial requests stem from a witness changing her story about what she saw at the scene where Clifton Hudson Jr. was murdered, but also from claims that East Cleveland Police withheld evidence and may have been sent a letter from a former prosecutor to destroy certain evidence after the convictions.

"There is no question in my mind that Carmen Marino had full knowledge of this evidence and he insistently and brazenly engaged in it's suppression," said Judge Nancy Russo. "Carmen Marino is infamous in Cuyahoga County for his vindictive, unprofessional and outrageous conduct in criminal cases. It seems that injustice was his hallmark. It truly was a better day when he left that office taking his bag of tricks and deception with him."

Prosecutors contend it was produced. Defense attorneys say they never received it.

Russo called the prosecutor's actions over their case malicious.

"I have no doubt had your trial occurred in 2015 and not 1996, that the evidence would have been given to your attorney," Russo said.  

Earlier, Russo granted Johnson a new trial, but it was overturned in the court of appeals. She ruled on the new requests Thursday.  

The judge placed the men on $50,000 bond each and they must wear GPS monitoring devices. 

There was plenty of emotion after the judge's ruling from family and friends in the courtroom. 

"Freedom for the three. Freedom for the East Cleveland Three. Thank you, God. It is over," Latisha Powell, Johnson's sister, said. "Twenty long years it was in the dark and now it's in the light."

A pretrial hearing has been set for April 14. The prosecutor promises to appeal the decision.

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